AYS DAILY NEWS DIGEST 22.4.2016

Roads to refuge are few as Aleppo fighting escalates. Rise in refugees migrating from Turkey to Greece. Slovenian and Polish presidents discuss relocation of refuges. Austrian bishop refuses security fence on church lands. 12 refugees from Greece to arrive in Estonia next week. Finland rules Hungary unsafe for refugees. Syrian refugees arrive in Dunedin to an emotional welcome on behalf of the locals.

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Volunteers with children at camp in Lesvos. Photographer: Lighthouse Relief

SYRIA

Aleppo residents have increasingly fewer options to flee in the midst of bombings.

Bombs are falling heavily on #Aleppo, forcing people there to considering fleeing from this city at the epicenter of the Syrian war. But fleeing to #Turkey, where hundreds of thousands have fled since the eruption of the conflict in 2011, is no longer an option. “If Turkey had opened the borders, you would have seen the population of Aleppo go down by half. There is a new movement of Aleppo residents towards the other provinces, towards the coast”. The route out of government-held Aleppo is also vulnerable. The main #Damascus-Aleppo highway runs through rebel held territory, leaving the government dependent on a circuitous desert road that is vulnerable to Islamic State attack. That road was cut as recently as February by an Islamic State assault. The group remains poised some 10 km (6 miles) away, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group. “The humanitarian situation is extremely bad.” At least 10 people were reportedly killed in Aleppo bombardment during Friday prayers.

Peace Talks paused by opposition, U.N. envoy plans to continue talks into next week.

Syrian peace talks limp on to next week with the opposition absent. The U.N. special envoy for Syria has vowed to take the fragile peace talks into next week despite a walkout by the main armed opposition, a breakdown in the truce and signs that both sides are gearing up to escalate the five-year-old civil war.

The opposition declared a “pause” in the talks this week because of a surge in fighting and too little movement from the government side on freeing detainees or allowing in aid. Nearly all of its delegation left Geneva. But U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura said he had no plans to call off the negotiations, the first in five years of conflict to include some rebel factions. He said a ministerial meeting of world powers was urgently needed to get the talks back on track. “Bottom line, I plan to continue the proximity talks, but at the formal level and at the technical level until next week, probably Wednesday as originally planned,” he said. A fragile ceasefire in place since February was still in effect because none of the sides had renounced it, he said, but it was “in great trouble if we don’t act quickly.”

TURKEY

Turkish prime minister lashes out at Council of Europe report.

Following condemnations by the Council of Europe, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu denied accusations by the Council of Europe relating to concerns in respect to inadequate protection in Greece and Turkey. Davutoğlu asked that the report be amended, but the request was denied.

GREECE

Lesvos Boat report.

Boat Report for #Lesvos; no boats landed in north. One boat landed in south.

27 arrive on Kos, volunteers raise tents due to lack of official camp.

Last night 27 people arrived on #Kos island: among them 14 Pakistanis who volunteers met walking in the streets and 13 Syrians who were arrested by the coastguard. For the 14 Pakistanis volunteers set up tents as the official camp does not exist anymore. The Syrians should be registered by now. The prison at the police station is still overcrowded. The Police changes its mind everyday on whether volunteers are allowed to bring food and other supplies.

Transits across the Aegean increasing once again.

After close monitoring, the International Organization for Migration has identified that transits across the Aegean Sea appear to be increasing again. A spokesperson for IOM, Joel Millman, said at a press conference in #Geneva that “the arrivals in Greece which were down to literally zero this month are beginning to creep back up. In the last three days we had 150 people arriving each day… It does show that route might be picking back up”. He suggests that potential reasons for this are improved weather conditions or that smugglers are becoming more creative. Further reading: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-migrants-iom-idUSKCN0XJ0ZF

International Organization for Migration assisting migrants in voluntarily returning to countries of origin.

News That Moves: Since 2010, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has been implementing in Greece an Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR) program for “third country nationals”, funded by the European Union, National Sources and EEA Grants. The AVR programme may help people who decide to return voluntarily to their country of origin, if it safe to do so. Who Is Eligible? People that have abandoned their asylum application. People that had their asylum application rejected. People that for other reasons are unwilling to stay in Greece. People who have already been granted refugee status are not eligible to use the program.

What Do I Do If I Want to Return? One must express the intention to voluntarily return home. IOM registers and identities the person willing to return. IOM issues a travel document and a ticket, and assists the person before the departure from Greece. IOM can offer, based on specific criteria, services for reintegration into the country of origin. According to IOM data, 7,350 in 2014 and 3,725 Assisted Voluntary Returns have taken place in 2015 from Greece. IOM has begun a second round of assisted voluntary return (AVR) services for migrants who are seeking to safely return to their country of origin. IOM provides beneficiaries of the programme several services: Information and counseling on voluntary return, Pre-departure assistance, Transit and reception assistance, Small cash grants prior to departure. In March, IOM registered a total of 694 migrants who were seeking Assisted Voluntary Return. Of 694 people, IOM has provided assistance to 479 migrants, the majority from Morocco (199) and Iran (110).

Accommodations made in Athens Hotel.

Abandoned Hotel “City Plaza” in the centre of Athens has been turned into an Accommodation Centre: http://solidarity2refugees.gr/

Conditions at Vial remain appalling, volunteers to continue updating relevant information.

Witnesses report from Chios on the outrageous conditions in #Vial: food infested with maggots; no provision of clothes/shoes; babies on one bottle of milk a day; raw sewage flowing through the camp. These wonderful volunteers will be updating the Refugee Solidarity Community Portal (http://www.rsc.network) and keeping us informed of conditions.

Afghan migrant in Macedonia separated from family after deportation, information is requested on their whereabouts.

“Missing Family: Farhad Abdulahi lost his family. They should be in Greece, #Idomeni. Family is from #Herat, #Afghanistan and they are separated 2 days ago. Macedonian police deported them back to Idomeni and they were separated from Farhad. If some of the organization have any information please let us know. Farhad is going for registration in Serbia, Belgrade. Members of family: 1. Mohammad Husein Abdulahi — 13 years old, 2. Farshid Abdulahi — 18 years old, 3. Fardin alAbdulahi — 21 years old, 4. Sima abdulahi — 42 years old. Sima and Farshid have a heart disease and they need to take a therapy!” https://www.facebook.com/RefugeeAidMiksaliste/photos/a.1656591594607458.1073741828.1652129721720312/1704094509857166/?type=3&hc_location=ufi

Lesvos medical care continues to be scarce.

Volunteers in #Lesvos have once again announced that medical care in the area is seriously lacking and they have been trying to cover the medical needs of the refugees through their own means and short term volunteer activities which they try to evolve into long term solutions.

Petra camp faces shortages of food and staffing.

In #Petra camp which contains a large Yazidi population, officials have declared tap water to be non-drinkable while the daily amount of water given to refugees have only been 1.5 lt per day bottled. Food, water and electricity shortages have increased while both government and ngo staff are very much inadequate to provide for the needs of the refugees.

Supplies urgently needed at refugee squat in Athens 5th School.

URGENT CALL OUT FOR FOOD/ SUPPORT for the 5th School #ATHENS: Refugee Solidarity Squat in Athens,The school building near Omonia, that houses over 350 refugee families is in urgent need of food supplies, and cleaning supplies. Occupants are organizing among themselves, setting up classes and taking on the responsibility of cleaning and helping to run the building but some outside support is still needed. Volunteers and solidarity support is needed to cook/ help organize/ reach out.

URGENTLY NEEDED; Cleaning supplies, food for cooking- vegetables, canned food, baby formula (no.2,3,4), nappies, (4,5,6), tools, tape. — biscuits for the children –eggs -Milk for children ( all ages) — Tahine — oil — Arabic bread — Rice — Fruits -For the sick children : Potatoes, Carrots, Chicken — chick peas — Shampoo — diapers — Wipes — soap — toilet paper ADDRESS: 55 Asklipoui street, on corner with Octaviou Merlie, Athens. Please bring to address, Come any time, weekly assembly here 5pm Saturday (tomorrow).Or contact Kastro +30 698 7882433

900 camped at Katsica, call for volunteers of all kind to aid the camp.

#KatsicaIoannina isn’t a camp of any NGO. By all means that Ngos had their camp, we need hands for everything, at this moment at the 20th of April there was a group of young Germans who dealt with making and distributing food, and certainly well organized. And a group associated with ‘#Olvidados’ that manage materials, supply storehouses and are finished, have everything needed so as to even distribute in other camps. #Katsica is a camp of about 900 people in #Ioannina near #Thessaloniki requiring volunteers for everything. Go and present yourselves there, we are all necessary and no one is greater than any other, the photo is from Idomeni #Katsika is more arid, without any shade and all stone, which makes the camp an inhumane place. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1151450471560649&set=gm.513191792221714&type=3

MACEDONIA

Inadequacy of Gevgejlija and Tabanovce camps result in many returning to Greece.

The situation is very difficult in both #Gevgelija and #Tabanovce. Refugees do not have enough food. Many are applying to return to Greece through the IOM. Others are leaving the camp via smugglers. Red Cross does not have medicine for people with heart diseases and volunteers are not allowed to bring such medicine. NGOs are not allowed to enter the camps after 19:00. There are less then 1,000 refugees now in the camp. Every day several families leave.

SERBIA

Public debate calls into doubt effectiveness of EU-Turkey deal and closing of Balkan Route as solutions to refugee movements.

During a public debate entitled “EU’s Migration Policy and the Effect on Serbia”, organized by the Forum for International Relations of the European Movement in Serbia, the Network of the European Movement in Serbia and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Rados Djurovic, president of the Asylum Protection Center NGO stated that “By closing the Balkan route, European countries stopped the flow of these people who are mostly refugees and from the human rights aspect, that was an extremely controversial move that was not in line with either European or domestic rules”, further supporting recent claims by the European Council. Djurovic was also doubtful that the EU-Turkey will be a sustainable solution to refugee inflow into the EU as “Borders do not stop the process. Some of them enter Bulgaria from Turkey, then from Bulgaria they go to Serbia and there are those who come through Macedonia”, underlining that regulations do not necessarily mean efficacy.

CROATIA

16 detained in Croatia after deportation from Austria, Slovenia and Sweden.

16 refugees, families with children and a single man, voluntary returned to #Iraq today. Most of them got stuck in Croatia after they were deported from #Austria/#Slovenia. One person was deported from Sweden after spending more than 6 months there. They were disappointed with treatment in Croatia, that included several weeks of detention in #SlavonskiBrod camp. They bought plain tickets. We are sorry and ashamed our country did not welcomed them better and we really hope they will be safe and happy in their future life.

SLOVENIA

Slovenian president argues for common European immigration policy, Polish counterpart responds with opposition to forced relocations.

Slovenian President Borut Pahor said on Friday during a visit to #Poland that the relocation of refugees was vital to a common European policy on immigration. Meanwhile, Polish President Andrzej Duda said that “any person who needs our help will receive such help,” but added that Poland was “against forced relocation” of refugees. Pahor argued after a meeting with his Polish counterpart that a common European policy on immigration “cannot exist without the relocation of immigrants.” Duda said: “I cannot imagine that anyone will be brought to Poland by force and detained here by force.”

Slovenian referendum regarding migrant accommodations rejected.

The National Assembly rejected a referendum on the accommodation of migrants in Slovenia, which was proposed by the SDS. For the referendum voted 11 deputies, against were 44 deputies. (www.sta.si)

AUSTRIA

Austria to tighten security on eastern border, enforce identification, despite Schengen zone.

Austrian police and soldiers will start controlling the eastern border with #Hungary starting Monday to stop illegal immigration and to counter the rise in people smuggling, police announced Friday. Police have recorded increasing numbers of smugglers and illegal border crossings in eastern Austrian regions over the past months, albeit at much lower levels than during the peak of the migration inflow last year. The controls at checkpoints in #Burgenland province would be conducted in a way that does not hinder normal traffic, and the measure would be temporary, police said, without stating an end date. From Monday, all travelers to and from Hungary need to carry valid travel documents, even though the border is within Europe‘s borderless Schengen zone. Authorities are also making preparations to raise fences along some stretches of this border in order to direct migrants into official crossings. However, implementing this plan will depend on a major shift of the migratory route, said Helmut Greiner, police spokesman for Burgenland province. “If no-one comes, we won‘t need a fence,” he told dpa. Austria‘s plans to also control its southern border with Italy, despite the Schengen agreement, have raised fears in Italy that such measures would hurt the road transport industry.

Austrian bishop refuses to have fence planted on church grounds, demands that refugee crisis be tackled at its root causes.

An Austrian bishop refused on Thursday to allow parts of a planned anti-migrant fence on the country’s southern border with Hungary to be built on Church land. The barrier near Moschendorf, one of a number of government measures meant to be completed by June, is set to be several kilometers long but crosses two Church-owned properties. A fence “would contradict the spirit of the Gospel, Pope Francis’s clear message to Europe, and in particular for a diocese that was in the shadow of the Iron Curtain for decades,” said Aegidius Zsifkokvics, bishop of #Eisenstadt. “Last year, during the worst refugee crisis of recent years when 200,000 people crossed the border at (nearby) #Nickelsdorf in six weeks, practically overnight we provided around a thousand emergency places in Church buildings for exhausted families, for women, children and old and weak people,” he said. “And now we are supposed to build a fence on Church lands?,” he said. “We need to tackle today’s problems at their root and that means: stopping organized human trafficking, stopping sales of European arms, stopping war and the deliberate destabilization of the Middle East and stopping the exploitation of African raw materials and agriculture by European firms,” he added.

ESTONIA

12 refugees to be settled in Estonia, seven previously accepted.

The next 12 refugees to be settled in Estonia under the European Union’s migrant relocation program are to arrive in Estonia next week. The group to arrive from Greece includes two families from Syria, one family from Iraq and one man from Yemen, spokespeople for the Ministry of the Interior said. The five-member Syrian family has three preschool-age children. The father has studied to be a car mechanic and the mother has worked in the medical field. The three-member Syrian family has one school-age child. Both parents speak English and have studied at a university, but did not finish it. The woman has been a volunteer teacher and the man was a shopkeeper. The Yemeni man speaks English and has studied at a university. He has worked as a coordinator in a civil society organization. The three-member Iraqi family has one school-age child and the father is an electrician. Spokespeople for the ministry said that officials of the Police and Border Guard Board, the Internal Security Service and the Ministry of Social Affairs have all conducted interviews with the refugees and Estonia has authorized accepting them into the country. “By now the people to be relocated have confirmed their wish to lie in Estonia, and in the final stage they will go through a health check and will be transported to Estonia” deputy secretary general of the Interior Ministry for law enforcement and migration policy Raivo Kuut said. According to deputy secretary general for social affairs at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Rait Kuuse, the refugees would be settled in Tallinn, Tartu, and Haapsalu. He added that the ministry has talked it over with the local municipalities. “The settling in of the seven refugees who arrived in Estonia in March as well as their first month in Estonia has gone very quietly and as planned. The most important thing is to give people who arrive from difficult circumstances a chance to cope with their new life and offer them support for that. We also hope that they will soon find jobs since they have the abilities to manage on the labor market” Kuuse said. Estonia has so far accepted seven people from Greece under the European Union’s migrant relocation program.

FINLAND

Finland rules against deportation of refugee to Hungary due to potentially inhumane treatment.

Finland’s highest administrative court has ruled against the deportation of an Afghan asylum seeker to #Hungary as there is a risk of “inhuman and degrading treatment” in the EU member state which is widely criticized for its policies against refugees. The Finnish Immigration Service, the body that overlooks the asylum seeking process, suspended the return of the applicant to Hungary hours after the Supreme Administrative Court ruling was announced on Wednesday. “It is not possible to reliably ensure that returning an asylum seeker to Hungary would not violate … [international treaties], which prohibit, among others, inhuman and degrading treatment,” the court said in its judgment. On the contrary, Austria still sends refugees to Hungary. Two days ago, at minimum 6 Pakistani refugees were returned to Hungary.

NEW ZEALAND

13 families arrive in New Zealand as country expands locations to settle refugees.

Applause broke out at #Dunedin Airport when the Air New Zealand flight from #Auckland touched down on Friday, about 9.15am. Red Cross volunteers, many of whom held placards and toys for the children, greeted the 13 families with a waiata. The refugees, who had been based in #Mangere for six weeks, responded with speeches and a traditional Arab song. Dunedin joins the five other settlement locations, Auckland region, #Waikato, #Manawatu, #Wellington region and #Nelson, where quota refugees will be settled. An extra settlement location was needed after the Government decided to welcome an extra 600 Syrian refugees over the next two-and-a-half years in response to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East country. A further 150 Syrians would be welcomed as part of the existing annual intake of 750 refugees. Red Cross workers would help settle them in the Dunedin, along with more than 400 others who expressed interest in helping.

EU

New agency to be activated as coast guard to halt smuggling of migrants.

EU interior ministers approved a European border and coast guard to stem migrant flows from North Africa and the Middle East at a summit here Thursday. The proposal, put forward by the European Commission last December, must now be approved by the European Parliament, and then by the European Council at the end of June. It comes after reports Monday that a boat capsized in Egyptian waters in the Mediterranean Sea, killing hundreds of migrants. One year ago about 700 migrants are thought to have died when a boat capsized in waters off Libya. The new agency “should be activated quickly to check on new routes or routes that have been used more heavily than before, for instance from North Africa to Italy,” Klaas Dijkhoff, the Dutch minister of security and justice, told reporters. However, the EU coast guard will not be able to operate in Egyptian waters, where the boat is thought to have capsized Monday. The Sophia EU naval operation, launched last summer to fight people smugglers, could soon be operational in Libyan waters. Diplomats stress that while Sophia is aimed at disrupting people smugglers’ business model, the new EU coast guard could be used the same way, in addition to its larger mandate. The EU coast guard will be built upon Frontex, the EU border agency that until now has had only coordinating powers, and it will be able to draw on at least 1,500 experts that can be deployed in under three days. The plan took a relatively four short months to reach this stage, and diplomats stress discussions, including at the meeting of ambassadors where it was approved earlier this month, were smooth.

Call for stronger legal pathways to admit refugees and migrants, to combat dangerous smuggling journeys.

UNHCR continues to call for increased regular pathways for the legal admission of refugees and asylum seekers to Europe. In a statement released after hundreds of people were reported to have drowned in the southern Mediterranean last week, UNHCR specified that the increased and strengthened legal pathways should include: Resettlement and humanitarian admission programs; Family reunification; Private sponsorship; Student and work visas for refugees. According to UNHCR, “these will all serve to reduce the demand for people smuggling and dangerous irregular sea journeys.” IOM reports that 1,232 migrant deaths have occurred in the Mediterranean in 2016 of 1,489 deaths worldwide.

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Daily news digests from the field, mainly for volunteers and refugees on the route, but also for journalists and other parties.

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